Technology and Tolerance

Tolerance is an interesting concept; it keeps our biases and personal convictions in check and moderates our acceptance of issues that we don’t agree with. In a social sense, tolerance plays a critical part in a well-behaved society.

I was raised to be tolerant long before it became socially popular. My father was a minister who modeled tolerance. People loved him because he loved them rather than judged them. I learned a lot from him. But there is one particular area of today’s culture in which my acceptance is wearing thin, and it is in my very own field of photography.

Here’s where I’m losing it, and why.

There are amazing technology products on the market now that automate the entire photographic process, from beginning to end, and they generate great pictures. Automated cameras and predigested visual effects pretty much guarantee great pictures. Every time you see a friend’s photo, you probably “like” it. We all do. But I wonder if this techno-blessing hasn’t brought with it a serious curse; one that seems to be having a profound effect on the whole photographic culture.

I not only write a photo blog, I shoot a lot, I produce educational videos, I edit photos for city magazines, and I speak to groups about photography and imaging. I’m totally immersed and marinated in photons and pixels. I love the entire process because of the creative juices that it stirs inside me. When I view a potential photo scene I envision every element of the capture process. I size the scene up for lighting, framing, angle, and depth of focus. I see it all in my mind. I even imagine how I’ll shape the camera image in post-production before I shoot the picture.

I guess that’s at the core of my distress. I’ve developed my skills and knowledge from a ton of personal experience (mistakes and poor judgment). I never stop learning. I’ve learned how light behaves, how to capture it, and how to push it around and massage it during the editing process. Because I understand light, I understand how to shape color. I love the whole creative process, not just the result. I enjoy making it happen.

Perhaps our culture is becoming so dependent on smart technology that we’re becoming not-so-smart about how to produce pictures without it. We’re satisfied with the canned effects that technology offers while we should be proud of learning to master the process. Could the discipline of photography and the development of technical skills be declining because of technical advances? How ironic. Has technology made photography so effortless that we have little interest in personally controlling the process?

More and more people are learning about talented devices but fewer people are developing their own talent. Personal pride in personal skills seems to be fading. It’s easier to accept someone else’s interpretation of a picture than it is to learn to express our own. Perhaps we have too much tolerance for “easy” and too little pride in our skills.

Here’s a question for you!

If the camera is doing all the work, can you really take credit for the result?


I know how to set the camera up to capture the light and freeze the action.

If your skills are dependent on the Auto button and a handful of pre-sets, you are shortchanging yourself. Photography is an art and a science built around the capture and shaping of light. Ask yourself how much of that science you actually understand? It’s a shame to rely on tricks and pre-sets when you could learn to control the process.

LavePoolWaves Corrected

Because I understand some basic facts about controlling light and color within imaging software, I was able to adjust this camera image and produce this result. All these tones and colors were locked inside the photo, just waiting to be revealed. I just know how to bring them out.

Make sure the “likes” you get in social media are for what you know and produce. Take pride in your personal knowledge. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel about about those likes when you produce the results with your own work!

Learn something about photography today that you didn’t know yesterday; then you can really be proud of yourself. Make yourself a promise to no longer tolerate your lack of knowledge. This is one case where pride is a good thing and tolerance is a bad thing.

That’s the way I sees it. Let me know what you think.

Speaking Promo

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to and get Bright About Light!

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook Digital Color Photography from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color video series at Gotta Know
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2 Responses to Technology and Tolerance

  1. Dick Busher says:

    Well said. However I am not sure how many of your readers will be inspired to learn more on their own. Hopefully you will inspire some to delve into your educational materials.

    • Herb Paynter says:

      Thanks Dick, I will be starting a new series on fundamentals for those who sign up for the GottaKnow video series. I’ll announce this in a followup post early next week.

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